If you are one of my Facebook friends or follow me on Twitter you’ve seen me post a lot about the consumption of artificial ingredients. Now I admit, I’ve never been the healthiest of eaters in my life. I’ve always been naturally thin (well, before 3 kids in 4 years) so I never worried too much about what I put in my body. But now that I’m responsible for the health of three little ones I’m realizing I can’t just hide my head in a hole and pretend that since I ate it and I’m currently healthy that it’s okay for my kids.
Recently there has been a lot of attention in the media on the possible ill-effects of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives on kid’s health. A study conducted in the United Kingdom, known as the Southampton study, shows linkage between hyperactive behavior and certain artificial colorings and preservatives. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest other studies and research have shown a linkage between artificial colorings and cancer.
I consider myself a very logical person, and I know there is a ton of information out there for both sides of the argument. However I do think it’s hard to ignore the rising rates of cancer, obesity, ADHD, allergies and the like in our kids today. Every time you turn on the news there is a new report talking about the failing health of Americans. Are these problems driven entirely by artificial ingredients in our food? Probably not. But could they be one of many culprits? I can’t see how you can argue that they are not.
Did you know that in the United Kingdom Kraft, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart have removed artificial colors and dyes from the very same foods sold here in America? They did. But did they do so for the same products sold in the U.S.? No. Why? I can’t say. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts cost had something to do with it. It usually does. This article from Healthy Child Healthy World explains more.
So what can we do about it? The first and most effective way we can make a change is with our money. Stop buying products with artificial colors and preservatives. It’s not easy, but it’s not that difficult either. You have to start reading labels. Look towards the bottom of the list for ingredients such as Yellow 5 or Red 40 or Blue 1. Look at every product you buy with a label. Every. Single. Product. Some products you may consider healthy or would not expect to have these ingredients, like yogurt or pickles, will contain artificial colors.
Have I noticed any differences in my family? Well we’ve been cutting back the processed and artificial foods from our diets gradually, so its harder to say. But on the occassions where I’ve given my kids candy (of which almost ALL has artificial colors), I’ve noticed that Maddie gets very riled up, starts demanding more candy and throws absolute fits when she doesn’t get anymore (worse than usual 2 year old fits). She does NOT have that reaction after eating homemade cookies or cakes or other sweet treats. It seems to only be with candy. And my friend Tanya who is currently living in London (where food contains little/no artificial preservatives) has said she’s noticed she’s been feeling better since they moved there a year ago.
Are we completely free from “fake” ingredients? No. Not yet. But we’re trying. And I’ve found it’s much easier to make little changes here and there than to try to change everything at once. First we cut out snack crackers and chips. Then we quit eating the popular brand of mac & cheese and switched to the organic versions. And just recently I started buying yogurts that only contain natural colorings. And of course we try to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Does it cost more money? Of course. But that’s where meal planning comes in. Not spending on unnecessary foods and only purchasing what we need leaves more money in the budget for the healthier items.
So what’s the score so far? I’m going with My Family 1, Artificial Ingredients 0. And I hope to keep increasing that margin.
What items with artificial ingredients have you been cutting from your family’s diet? Have you noticed if it makes a difference?